Although still a year short of their ten-year foundation anniversary, Auckland City are old hands at the FIFA Club World Cup having competed at four previous tournaments, a feat matched only Egypt’s Al Ahly. By chance, their opening match was a 2-0 defeat against the Cairo giants back in 2006. Appearances in 2011 and 2012 also resulted in single match showings with narrow defeats against J.League clubs on both occasions. Undoubtedly their standout performance was at Abu Dhabi 2009 in which the New Zealanders beat the host representatives, and the champions of Africa. Those memorable victories over Al Ahli and TP Mazembe Englebert saw the amateur club claim an impressive fifth-place finish.
Auckland City, along with cross-town rivals Waitakere United, are by far New Zealand and Oceania’s best performed teams of the modern era. Success for the Aucklanders has followed a curious pattern with City crowned Oceania kings for the third consecutive year, yet on the domestic stage they have been edged out by their rivals Waitakere four years in a row. In keeping with that unusual pattern Auckland City’s 2013 Oceania campaign was widely inconsistent. Winning just three of their six group matches, the New Zealanders survived intense pressure against Tahiti champions AS Dragon to grab a hard-won point on the road and edge into the semi-finals. Perhaps spurred on by that near-miss Auckland found their rhythm and demolished the previously in-form Fijians Ba 7-1 on aggregate. Auckland then defied the form book and used their experience of the big stage to see off Waitakere 2-1 in the continental decider.
Auckland’s squad has remained mostly unchanged over the course of their current three-year run at the FIFA Club World Cup, and that experience will stand the side in good stead at Morocco 2013. Coach Ramon Tribulietx has added further to the Spanish flavour with the mid-season arrival of playmaker Gustavo Souto, while former Barcelona youth team player Manel Exposito is a key member of the forward line. Auckland boast a handful of the finest young local players in the national league, but their most prized asset remains New Zealand’s most-capped player Ivan Vicelich. The evergreen central defender and team captain shows little sign of ageing despite turning 37 this year.
Facts and figures
Ben Sigmund, Paul Urlovic, Keryn Jordan
Ivan Vicelich (defender), Albert Riera (midfielder), Manel Exposito (forward)
Despite an erratic qualifying campaign, Auckland City racked up an impressive 28 goals across their nine matches.
The numbers game
7 – Auckland City have won two of seven outings at their four previous FIFA Club World Cup appearances.